Reviewed by Van T. Tran
Disney, widescreen 2.35:1, languages: English dubbed DD 5.1 [CC], subtitles: none, single side-single layer, 17 chapters, rated PG-13, 92 min., $29.99, street date 9/14/99.
Directed by Jackie Chan. Starring Jackie Chan, Carol Cheng, Eva Cobo de Garcia, Shoko Ikeda, Aldo Sanchez, Ken Lo Wai-Kwong.
Get ready for Jackie Chan’s most spectacular adventure ever… starring and directed by Chan himself! Risking everything and performing all his own death-defying stunts, Chan ignites the big screen as the world’s greatest secret agent, code name Condor. Sent to track down stolen Nazi gold buried beneath the Sahara, Condor is pursued by a ruthless band of treasure-hunting terrorists. With the help of three sexy sidekicks, Jackie takes off on a globe-spanning chase…in an incredible quest to reach the hidden bounty first! It’s going to be an action-packed fight right up to the explosive climax…and you won’t want to miss one minute of the thrills!
In 1990, Operation Condor originally released overseas and known as Armour of God II: Operation Condor or in Chinese Feiying gaiwak. It's a sequel to the 1986 Armour of God (Longxiong hudi). There is some confusion to the title because when Dimension Films released the sequel in the States in 1997, it simply named Operation Condor. To further confuse the masses, the 1986 Armour of God is released on DVD as Operation Condor 2. In a nutshell, for those that have seen the laserdisc and video imports with the correct titles, just reverse the order for the DVD releases.
Having cleared the distinction, it is not important to have watched the original as Operation Condor is a self-contained story. Jackie Chan is the director, writer and star in the film as an United Nations agent names Jackie, code-name Condor. The story has an international flavor as Jackie's character is a combination of James Bond and Indiana Jones in search of a large stash of gold buried somewhere in the Sahara by the Nazis after War World II. Accompanying on his adventure is Ada, play by the beautiful Carol Cheng who is virtually unknown in the West but has an illustrious career in Hong Kong cinema and television. Two other female sidekicks, Eva Cobo de Garcia and Shoko Ikeda, join in the fun.
As in most of Jackie Chan's films, the plot merely serves to showcase the many action sequences and Operation Condor does not disappoint in that regard. Besides the numerous fight scenes, the film is famous for the two spectacular action sequences: one involves an exhilarating car chase with Jackie on motorcycle through the streets of Madrid ended with him launching in mid-air and grabing a fishing net over a cargo pier. The launch on motorcycle is replayed in different camera angles for you to fully appreciate the dangerous stunt. The other sequence involves a brawl inside a compound where Jackie not only has to worry about the bad guys but also the changing gust of the wind tunnel. In between the action are plenty of silly slapticks involving the girls.
As I was preparing to watch the DVD, I wonder about the condition of the film element, knowing full well that the Hong Kong film industry does not spend for the best film stock. I don't know if the nearly decade old film needed to undergo any restoration by Dimension, but my fear alleviated somewhat as the transfer shows a fairly decent presentation. There are some scenes, especially the panoramic views in the desert, that contain dirt particles and scrawls, but not enough to plague the picture. The bad news is that unfortunately the transfer suffers from a sympton of over enhancement. This resulted in an abundance of shimmers and video noise throughout the picture. I was often distracted by the glaring compression artifacts. Otherwise, images are generally sharp and colors are well saturated. Contrast is too high on fleshtones and shadow details could be better defined for interior scenes. Filmed mostly in Spain and Morocco, the production is rather exotic and lavish. It has been a while since I watched the laserdisc import, but from what I understand, about 14 minutes have been trimmed from the overseas version.
When it comes to the audio portion, the film boasts a new DD 5.1 soundtrack and dubbed in English with Chan's own voice. The integration of the different tracks is not done as well as I would prefer. Obviously, there is not much that can be done about the cheesy dubbing, but the music is presented too loudly on the front left and right channels. Instead of providing a seamless environment, I am constantly reminded of this artificial integration of the dialogue, music, and sound effects. That is not to say that the new soundtrack is not exciting, as the score composed by Stephen Endelman provides plenty of energy and tension to the film. The sound effects provide some deep bass and nice directionality on the front and rear, especially inside the wind tunnel, but the surrounds are limited to ambient noise most of the time.
The bare bone DVD does not come with any extras, not even a trailer or animated menu. It would be nice for the disc to include the original language track and deleted scenes. Operation Condor is one of the more popular Jackie Chan films, there is a high level of action and slaptick to provide a fun night of entertainment. However, my recommendation is for rental only due to the high price, lack of features, and average transfer.
Current as of 9/18/99
Official Site--The studio has an archived section on the film where you can find a brief sypnosis, a few stills and video clips.